Old is New Again
A recent article talking about some northern California winemaker’s trials, using terracotta clay amphorae or, large clay columns sealed on each end with beeswax, as one of the great new wine making techniques, made me pause. In years past the talk was of Nomblot, an egg-shaped concrete fermentation vats.
Wineries built to avoid the use of pumps, by using gravity to move the wines from one stage of production to the next, are highly touted as producing the best and some of the most expensive wines. Tours of these wineries focus on how cutting edge it is to be as minimally intrusive in the wine making process as possible.
Another hot topic is Bio-dynamic wine grape growing and production. What do all of these current hot topics have in common? The fact that old is new.
What is believed to be the oldest wine cellar ever found was unearthed in Israel last year and, low and behold, forty 50-liter clay amphorae were found, filled with 4,000-year-old wine, made by the Canaanites, noted in the old testament of the Bible.
The concrete wine tanks that so many wineries focus your attention on when you tour today were first introduced and used in the 19th century. But wait; in the 21st century this is the hot new technique to enhance the wine made.
Wineries engineered to use gravity instead of pumps? I was touring a winery in Napa Valley that is housed in the original Grigsby-Occidental Winery. In 1878, it was the sixth bonded winery in the Napa Valley. Today it is the Regusci winery.
It is a three-story building, built into the side of the hill, which is completely engineered for minimalist winemaking and the use of gravity. Trap doors in the wooden third floor were used to pour the crushed grapes and juice into the fermenting tanks sitting on the second floor. After fermentation, the wine would flow out of the tanks and into the waiting barrels on the first floor, ground level at the front of the building. The horse drawn wagons could then take the barrels out of the winery and to market. You would think that minimalist wine making and wineries engineered to utilize gravity, instead of pumps, have only just come into being with our advanced knowledge.
This month’s menu brings to mind the principle of what’s old is new too. Looking at an entrée dish that includes both seafood and steak might cause some to feel confused about what wine to serve that would match this dish.
Back in the days that bio dynamics, concrete eggs, gravity wineries and, especially in the days of clay amphorae, the wine that people liked would be what they had available and that meant that the wine they liked was what would be served with everything.
Let’s not get too caught up in the rules of what to serve with what and when. Don’t get me wrong; there are lots of great scientific principles that are proven when certain wines are matched with particular dishes. The complexity and enjoyment of the food is enhanced by the wine match and vice versa.
But, if you find yourself feeling confused and that causes you to feel uncomfortable enough to eschew the wine and find another beverage to serve, throw the rules out and rely on the old is new tact.
Serve what you like with the dish that you are looking forward to enjoy. Even if there might have been a wine match that could have increased the enjoyment more, I can assure you that having any wine with your meal is going to provide more enjoyment than none at all.